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Wednesday Morning Roundup


by Stephen Becker 14 Jan 2009

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Google Earth and the Prado Museum in Madrid have partnered on a project that allows viewers around the world to view every minute detail of some of the museum’s masterpieces. Google brought its 14,000 megapixel cameras to the museum to capture each work in painstaking detail, and the result is like […]

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UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Google Earth and the Prado Museum in Madrid have partnered on a project that allows viewers around the world to view every minute detail of some of the museum’s masterpieces. Google brought its 14,000 megapixel cameras to the museum to capture each work in painstaking detail, and the result is like looking through the collection with a magnifying glass (watch the video for a taste).

Now, the question is: Will this make people more likely or less likely to visit the museum? Most major institutions have at least part of their collections available to view online. But the knock has always been that you really can’t appreciate a work without seeing it in person. Even a two-dimensional medium like a painting becomes 3D when you start examining the brush strokes.

This new venture, though, starts to break down even the dimensional boundaries. In the case of the Prado, we’re still only talking about 14 works — hardly the whole experience. And for those who for one reason or another will never be able to make it to Spain, innovations like this are a blessing.

But it’s also another incremental step in the Web’s transfer of the live, communal experience into the packaged, individual one.

SIX HOURS OF LAUGHS: PBS takes on the daunting task of surveying our nation’s funny bone with Make ’Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America — a six-hour special that begins tonight at 7 on KERA (Channel 13). The New York Times took a look at the series on Sunday if you want a little preview. The filmmakers spent a couple of years talking to more than 100 comedians for the project. If you’ve ever heard comedians interviewed about their craft, you’ll know that once they get past their couple of pre-packaged jokes, they normally get pretty introspective and like to talk with great reverence about their comedy forefathers and the art of making people laugh.

QUOTABLE: “Tell me something: Was it really that bad that half of you didn’t want to clap?”

— Violinist Itzhak Perlman after a tepid response to his performance of Messiaen’s Theme and Variations in West Palm Beach, Fla. Perlman then went on to inform the audience that apparently good manners say that you are supposed to clap even if you don’t like what you’ve heard before playing the piece again later in the program.

Henceforth, this shall be known as the “Treat Pros Like Kids” dictum.

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  • The obvious answer is to make exact copies of the paintings on canvas – ex. giclee or canvas prints. Then the copies can go on tour, with the originals safe in storage or in Museums. Then EVERY painting copy of every painting in the Prado can go on one tour.That’s integrating art back into the community and is a major point of the art revolution.
    How about this blog talking about the revolution in mass marketing of art?

  • Jennifer

    Very interesting about the Prado…I’ll definitely be checking that out. I know my husband and I debated whether or not to include Madrid on our Spain trip in 2006. The Prado was one of the main reasons I wanted to go there. We didn’t end up fitting it into our itinerary, and now, with this online resource, I’m wondering if Madrid *IS* a little bit lower on my travel destinations wish list…

  • Bill Marvel

    Still, there’s something about standing in front of the painting, the REAL thing, that no reproduction, no matter how skillful, can duplicate. A painting is not valuable solely for the information it contains. It is a physical object. Anything else is a picture of an object.

  • Bill Marvel

    I don’t say a reproduction is bad. I say the original painting or performance is better. What is dangerous, I think, is not being able to tell the difference. Part of the purpose of art is to educate the perceptions.

  • But I think you are missing the point. There is no difference. It is like finding difference in any of 5 records, or 6 copies of the same book.
    I would contend that if you put 5 copies of the painting plus the original on the same wall, and in the same frame, then asked people to pick out the original of the 6, none could do it except by luck.